Cosmic Warfare – The 144,000 and The Angelic Proclaimers

Revelation 14:1-13

Pretty bleak picture at end of chapter 13: an invincible beast, dragon and false prophet; suffering and hardship even death for all who would try to resist. If text ended at end of chapter, no hope for future, little hope for the present. Important to remember that description is given from vantage point of earth/creation; means perspective is limited. Requires view from heaven to get the full picture, see true significance of what is happening.

Following good literary style, John uses various techniques to keep the reader engaged – hyperbole, imagery, suspense, foreshadowing. To say nothing of the subject matter – that’s engaging all on its own! We’ve seen theantagonists in this cosmic warfare, now John brings theprotagonists to the foreground beginning with the 144,000 and three Angelic Proclaimers. We’ve seen what the saints can expect on earth during this age as Satan attempts to destroy the church; now John explains what they can anticipate from heaven’s perspective.

What we need, what Revelation helps us develop, is different sort of vision – sight that allows us to see all the players in the battle. Similar but more advanced than what Elisha’s servant had for a short time (2 Kings 6:15-17). Able to see not only players on both sides but also winning strategy and ultimate outcome. Situation of stark contrasts: according to normal vision, cause of Christ looks hopeless; with spiritual sight Satan’s cause is doomed to utter failure. If we only look with “normal” eyes, easy to become disheartened and doubt the outcome; have a great view of thenow, not so much the future. If we only look with “spiritual” eyes, won’t be adequately prepared for hardships and sorrows of this life; have a great view of thefuture, not so much the now. Need both sets of eyes for full understanding.

Full significance of what is portrayed here involves important truth: without condemnation, salvation is meaningless. In order for saints to enjoy full salvation, the wicked must be condemned and punished. True of humanandspiritual enemies of Christ and his kingdom. Also, it is not evil that is condemned and punished; it is evildoers. It is the saints and not just their good works that enjoy bliss of heaven, likewise the wicked and not just their evil deeds that endure the torments of hell. For Christ’s eternal kingdom to be fully established, Satan’s opposing kingdom with all its agents must be destroyed – the two acts are inseparable and both essential to the Gospel.

Second important concept: cruel suffering endured by saints on earth is not without meaning or purpose. There will be justice forall– the just and due penalty for sin will be satisfied, either in their own person in case of wicked, in person of slain Lamb in case of righteous. As all things are made right again, the saints’ experience on earth will be viewed against backdrop of history and advance of Christ’s kingdom as well as in light of eternal rest awaiting in heaven. Won’t be a rest of inactivity but rather rest from frustration, suffering, laboriousness of work, effects of sin and curse. We are assured of this outcome since the Lambisstanding on Mount Zion, presently invisible to all but the eye of faith, ultimately to be seen and acknowledged as King of kings by all mankind.

A. true Kingv.1

the” Lamb, the real in contrast to the second beast imposter; has indeed arisen from the dead, ascended to his Father in heaven, been installed in the position of honor and given all authority

true sovereign, established as king over all in contrast to dragon pretender who has been once and for all evicted from heaven. This is the ultimate outworking ofPsalm 2– God’s king established on Zion surrounded by his willing subjects and with the nations as his inheritance; followed by solemn warning to treat the Son rightly on pain of destruction.

present with ruling authority and power among his people – invisible to human eye does not mean absent. Son of man walking among lampstands (Rev. 1:12ff) is Lamb standing on Zion. Standing not sitting, working not resting, guarding and sustaining his people while advancing his kingdom. True people of God, whether on earth or in heaven are secure in the Lamb’s watchful presence.

B. true worshipersv.2-5

worship the Lamb, not the dragon – have his seal (Father’s name on their forehead), are counted among number of the saints. A fixed number, not 144,000 precisely but one known only to God, exclusively distinct from those marked as followers of Satan

sing true song of worship reserved for true worshipers – in scene John sees, only appropriate song of worship is one of victory. Saints and angels alike rejoice that Lamb has conquered the dragon (either in decree or in time), a song losers cannot sing. Sounds made by those with mark of the Beast will be weeping, wailing, grinding of teeth in frustrated rage at their utter defeat.

redeemed “out of” mankind who naturally follow dragon – “from the earth” (3), “from among men” (4); those purchased out of the world by blood of the lamb. Those not redeemed willingly chase after dragon’s lies (rememberIsa. 30:10-11) prostituting themselves in idolatrous worship.

kept themselves pure for the Lamb – spiritually monogamous; having been redeemed by the Lamb, viewed by God as just as pure and spotless as the Lamb. Citizens of heavenly city, the pure bride of Christ, stand in stark contrast to those of city of man, residents of Babylon, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:1)

C. true gospelv.6-11

everlasting – not just for this life; redeeming work of Christ not onlymakesfit for heaven,keepsfit for heaven eternally. Doesn’t just serve to get us safely through the judgment, precludes the possibility of future danger of judgment.

for everyone – no group left out; to be proclaimed to all nations. The goal: a worshiping people from all nations; the means: proclamation of the gospel.

no ambiguity – only one choice, one God, one response to escape judgment. Exclusive message, not many roads to same heaven; there’s one God and he has established the ground rules. Only the Creator is worthy of worship and there is only one creator.

one outcome – God’s wrath poured out on evildoers – judgment is coming

city of man falls – no matter how impressive, invincible, enticing, God will overthrow it. Those who live in it are loyal to it, there will be no survivors.

lost will be eternally punished – will experience God’s wrath:

His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evil-doers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority, a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty.”A W Pink

If there are only two classes of people – saved and lost, servants and enemies of God – then lost are enemies of God. Once they leave this life, lost no longer have restraining influence of common grace through culture, government, etc. Lost people can express their true nature without hindrance, rebelling and raging against their arch-enemy, God, as he punishes them for their rebellion and rage.

D. true blessingv.12-13

for the saints – patient, persevering, obedient, faithful

a call for patient endurance, for perseverance and keeping of the faith; should not trust in outward appearances, must remember to see with the eyes of faith (walking by faith, not sight;2 Cor. 5:7) No matter how confident the world may seem in pursuit of the dragon, scoffing at the message of Scripture, saints must remain true to the Lamb. Must also stay in it for the long haul; this is what we can expect for this age, can’t rely on the Second Coming to bail us out.

eternal rest promised – reward for faithfulness (worked by God – rememberIsa. 26:12)

rest from labor, frustration, suffering – endurance will be rewarded if we patiently persevere relying on strength God gives us. In fact, we should look forward with great anticipation to time of our death, being concerned that we finish well. Talking with someone about spouse: not worried about death, worried about how – drooling, in pain, etc. Perhaps important, more important: what does death hold for us?

Death for believer is great blessing, time when they will reap benefits of great promise: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”(Matt. 11:28-29) Reserved for those “who die in the Lord”; they will enter their rest while all others who die in their sins will begin an eternity of unparalleled torment, an eternity when there will be no rest (11).

May God give us grace and strength to continue our pilgrimage to the Celestial City, persevering to the end in faithful service to our Lord.

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